Natalie’s early steps to fame

She was a sensation on TV’s Strictly Come Dancing, but did you know that Natalie Gumede gave some of her earliest dance performances at the Luther Greenwood Festival in Colne?

Long before she made her name as Kirsty Soames in Coronation Street, Natalie was competing successfully in our annual dance competition at The Muni during the 1990s. Local organisers recall how she always did well, especially in ballet or tap, but they had no idea of her ballroom dancing talents until Strictly was aired.

Brought up in Colne, this granddaughter of former Zimbabwe-Rhodesia president Josiah Gumede developed her acting talents at Park High School in Colne and the Pendle Hippodrome Youth Theatre, based at the volunteer-run Hippodrome Theatre in Colne.

Natalie went on to study acting at the Italia Conti School in London and got her first big break playing a regular character, China, in Johnny Vegas’s dark comedy Ideal. Other TV roles followed before she landed the part of Kirsty Soames, the abused love interest of Tyrone Dobbs in Corrie.

Natalie dazzled with her performances in the 11th series of Strictly Come Dancing, partnered by former series champion Artem Chigvintsev, but some viewers moaned that her background as a trained dancer meant she wasn’t “amateur” enough. That didn’t matter in Colne, where the whole town was rooting for her, and our festival is proud to have played some small part in her early days as a performer.


Photo: BBC/Guy Levy